Number of young students vaping triples in a single year

Colors of Vape
Courtesy of 夏天
Delaware high school students are increasingly using electronic vapor products.

Staff Reporter

Electric cigarettes, known as e-cigs or “vapes,” are taking the smoking world by storm. According to the Delaware Division of Public Health Studies, 40 percent of Delaware high school students use electronic vapor products.

The most identifiable difference between the two lies in what they produce. Cigarettes produce tobacco smoke, known to have thousands of toxins and chemicals, while e-cigarettes produce vapor.

To create vapor, substances such as waxes, juices and oils are heated at a certain controlled temperature. Vapor contains nicotine, and like a cigarette, is inhaled and absorbed directly by the lungs.

The term “vapor” is not to be mistaken for water vapor. Vapor is often advertised as 95- percent smoke and carcinogen-free, so many people label it as a safe alternative to tobacco products.

Chemicals found in vapor include benzene, formaldehyde and diethylene glycol, which are extremely dangerous when inhaled. Isoprene, also found in vapor, is a possible cancer-causing agent.

“People think its vapor coming off the device, they don’t see it’s actually aerosol. They believe it’s a safer alternative because they know cigarettes are bad for you,” Deborah Brown, president of the American Lung Association of the Mid-Atlantic region, said.

The amount of young adults using e-cigarette products almost tripled in 2015, rising from 14.3 percent to 40 percent, according to the Delaware Division of Public Health studies. At the same time, the Centers for Disease Control confirms tobacco companies national e-cigarette ad spending rose from $6.4 million to $115 million between 2011 and 2014.

The market for young students also lies in the flavoring of the product. More than 7,700 flavors of e-juice are currently on the market.

One difference in the popularity of vapes versus cigarettes involves the lack of regulation. Electronic smoking devices have no requirements for ingredient disclosure, accurate labeling or quality control.

“The trend has happened so quickly, the FDA hasn’t had time to catch up. Some things may be labeled safe to eat, but extremely dangerous to inhale,” Christine DiPaolo, a nurse practitioner at Nemours Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children, said.

Since their presence is relatively new in the smoking world, the long-term health effects of inhaling are unknown.

In Delaware, e-cigarettes are banned in all public places where smoking is banned as well. While there are less chemicals and toxins in vapor than tobacco smoke, the chemicals in vapor are still dangerous.

“They say vapor is 95-percent carcinogen-free, but that 5 percent can kill you,” DiPaolo said.

E-cigarettes may reduce the risk of respiratory diseases, but the risk of addiction is also still present. E-cigarettes still contain nicotine, which is the highly-addictive element in cigarettes.

Cigarettes and other tobacco products are taxed at 15-percent wholesale in Delaware, while there is no tax imposed on e-cigarettes currently. According to Brown, Gov. Jack Carney is looking to include taxation on e-cigarettes in his upcoming 2017 Fiscal Year reset budget. The budget would also increase taxing of tobacco and e-cigarette products to 30 percent wholesale.

“E-cigarettes are somewhat new, but I do think we should consider them a very significant public health concern. We need to start doing as much education as possible based on the information we have at this point,” Brown said.

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